March 8, 2009
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. --- New Mexico (20-9, 9-7 MWC) women's basketball will open the 2009 Mountain West Conference Championship Tuesday against Air Force (4-25, 0-16 MWC) at 2 p.m. PST inside the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas. The Lobos enter the tournament as the fourth seed and will face the ninth seeded Falcons in the opening round. The game will be available on 610 AM The Sports Animal in the Albuquerque area while gametracker is available on www.GoLobos.com.
New Mexico has won five of the last six MWC Championships. The Lobos are 25-11 in conference tournaments since 1992 and 17-4 since joining the MWC. UNM has entered the MWC Championship as the fourth seed three other times including last year. The Lobos are 4-2 when entering the MWC Championship as the fourth seed and 9-3 overall as the fourth seed since 1992. New Mexico is 11-3 when the conference tournaments are held in Las Vegas.
Tuesday will be the 27th meeting between the two schools and the second time in the MWC Championship. The Lobos defeated Air Force, 63-50, in the first round of the 2004 MWC Championship held in Denver, Colo., on March 10. New Mexico defeated the Falcons twice during the regular-season and has won 25 straight against Air Force. The series dates back to Jan. 2, 1992 when the Falcons won the first game, 61-41, in Colorado Springs. Since that point, UNM holds a 25-1 series advantage.
New Mexico has won five of the last six MWC Championships. The Lobos are 25-11 in conference tournaments since 1992 and 17-4 since joining the MWC.
The Lobos are coming off a 63-45 victory against Wyoming Saturday inside The Pit. UNM improved to 16-2 at home and has won four of its last seven games. Senior Angela Hartill and junior Amy Beggin led New Mexico with 13 points while junior Eileen Weissmann scored 11. UNM led by as many as 27 early in the second half and cruised to win No. 20 against the Cowgirls.
New Mexico reached the 20-win plateau Saturday for the ninth consecutive year and the 11th under head coach Don Flanagan. Flanagan has an overall record of 303-135 (.691) heading into the tournament and has led the Lobos to a 20-9 overall record this season. Under Flanagan's guidance, UNM has won five of the last six MWC Championships and made the NCAA seven consecutive times.
The Lobos are looking at a four-game run to earn the automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament. UNM will open the tournament Tuesday and could play Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. The Pit will host the first and second round of the NCAA Tournament this year and next. New Mexico and San Diego State are the only two MWC schools hosting the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament this year.
Junior Amy Beggin is averaging 14.9 points this season and has scored in double figures in 28 of 29 games this season. The guard from Maplewood, Minn., is currently fourth in scoring (14.9), third in assists (116), second in free throw percentage (87.6) and first in assist/turnover ratio (1.90). Seniors Angela Hartill and Amanda Adamson have stepped up this season. Hartill is second on the team in scoring (11.4) while Adamson leads the team in rebounding (5.8).
Utah (20-9, 13-3) enters the 2009 Conoco Mountain West Conference Women's Basketball Championship as the No. 1 seed for the second consecutive year. The Utes and Aztecs (22-6, 13-3) tied for the MWC regular season title, but San Diego State will play as the No. 2 seed due to the tie-breaker.
San Diego State (22-6) tied with Utah for first place in the regular-season standings with a 13-3 mark. According to the tie-breaking procedures, the Aztecs will be the second seed in the championship. Both Utah and San Diego State split their regular-season meetings and have 3-1 records vs. the third- and fourth-place teams (TCU and New Mexico). Utah earned a 4-0 record vs. fifth-place Wyoming and BYU, compared to San Diego State's 3-1 mark against the Cowgirls and Cougars, to break the tie. TCU (20-9, 12-4) finished in third place, while New Mexico (20-9) earned the fourth spot with a 9-7 league record. Wyoming (16-13) and BYU (18-10) tied for the fifth place with 8-8 league marks. Due to the tie-breaking procedures, Wyoming will get the fifth seed. The teams split in the regular season, but the Cowgirls posted a 1-1 mark vs. second-place San Diego State, compared to the Cougars' 0-2 record. UNLV (12-17, 5-11) finished in seventh place in the standings, while Colorado State finished eighth (9-20, 4-12) and Air Force ninth (4-25, 0-16).
UNM swept Air Force in a pair of games this season. The Lobos won the last meeting with the Falcons, 79-33, inside The Pit. Four Lobos scored in double figures and UNM scored 33 bench points. New Mexico led 41-11 at the half and outscored the Falcons, 38-22, in the second period. Juniors Eileen Weissmann and Georonika Jackson led the way with 12 points combining to go 5-for-7 from long range. Everyone on the New Mexico roster scored. The victory gave Flanagan career win No. 300.
Air Force only shot 18 percent in the game and was 9-of-50 from the field. Raimee Beck was the only Falcon to reach double figures after scoring 11 points.
Earlier in the year, New Mexico beat Air Force, 73-39, inside Clune Arena.
This season, Air Force is led by Beck who is averaging 13.2 points per game. Brooke Cultra is chipping in 11.2 points per game while Kim Kreke is averaging 9.3 points and 9.4 rebounds. The Falcons are 4-25 this season and went 0-16 during league play. The last victory for Air Force was on Jan. 3 against Navy, 65-62.
The Falcons are coming off a 42-31 loss against BYU at home. Beck led Air Force with 14 points while Liz Dunsworth and Kreke each had six points. BYU's Cassie King led all scorers with 15.
Ardie McInelly is the Falcons head coach and is in her eighth season at the Academy. McInelly has never beat New Mexico during her career and is 0-17 against the Cherry and Silver. Flanagan is 23-0 against Air Force during his career.
Air Force enters the conference tournament are the ninth seed and is looking for its first MWC win of the year. Colorado State enter last year's tournament 0-16 and made a strong run loaded with upsets. The Rams defeated UNLV in the play-in game and went on to knockoff top seeded Utah before falling to the Lobos.
The winner of the New Mexico and Air Force battle will advance to Wednesday's game at 4:30 p.m. PST against the winner of fifth seeded Wyoming and eight seed Colorado State. The game will be televised on The Mountain West Sports Network.
The Mountain will broadcast both games Wednesday and Friday. Saturday's championship game will be aired live on the Versus Network at 1 p.m. PST. The first day of the women's tournament will not be broadcast but gametracker will be available through the conference site www.TheMWC.com and on www.GoLobos.com.